News Stories

Duped by Our Own Brains

Why do the elderly support politicians who want to do away with Medicare and Social Security? Scientists say this is because a specific area of the brain has deteriorated or is damaged.

By examining patients with various forms of brain damage, researchers have pinpointed the precise location in the human brain, called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, that controls belief and doubt, and which explains why some of us are more gullible than others.

The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is an oval-shaped lobe about the size of a softball lodged in the front of the human head, right above the eyes. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex begins to deteriorate as people reach age 60 and older, although the onset and the pace of deterioration varies. And oldsters are vulnerable in other ways than politics: A study conducted for the National Institute of Justice in 2009 concluded that nearly 12% of Americans 60 and older had been exploited financially by a family member or a stranger. And a report last year by insurer MetLife Inc. estimated the annual loss by victims of elder financial abuse at $2.9 billion.

In a recent study paper, the researchers write: "The current study provides the first direct evidence beyond anecdotal reports that damage to the vmPFC increases credulity. Indeed, this specific deficit may explain why highly intelligent patients can fall victim to seemingly obvious fraud schemes.

"In our theory, the more effortful process of disbelief (to items initially believed) is mediated by the vmPFC, which, in old age, tends to disproportionately lose structural integrity and associated functionality. Thus, we suggest that vulnerability to misleading information, outright deception and fraud in older adults is the specific result of a deficit in the doubt process that is mediated by the vmPFC." The location of the part of the brain indicates that bad judgment could be facilitated by a blow to the head, such as in an accident (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to these shows). Some sports, such as football or boxing, could also lead to this problem.

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What are the other idiots excuses then?

Well that hasn't happened to me and I'm 63. I was laid off from my 30 year job doing research for doctors, nurses and administrators in the Medical Library at a hospital at age 61. I took my pension and SS at 62, last year. My COBRA insurance will run out in two weeks. I am a life-long Democrat because this is the party that looks out for us no matter what our age is. And I have never understood working people who vote Republican because here in Indianapolis, Indiana there are thousands of working people who vote just that way. I have never understood what attracts working class people to a party that only looks out for the ultra-rich and they don't even try to hide this from the American public. People are gullible I guess!!!

America could use some more parties (like a workers party, enviroment party, old party, youth party etc.). We have 8 different parties in my country and 7 of them are much more middleclass friendly than the Rep. and Dem. party. When I vote I vote for say a former high school teacher or a former police man or a former academic who wants to do something good for me and the country. Their salary (if elected) is 80.000$ a year and they don't have any more saved than the rest of us. They are just like the voters except they have an interest in politics. The 179 who gets elected (gets most votes from the people) form the Danish parliament who decides the laws here. The 179 elected (all from the 8 parties) has to form a government and for that they need to be 90 (out of the 179) so 2, 3 or 4 parties have to work together and agree on a plan for the country for the next 4 years. There are no 2 chamber, no 2 party system here. And free education (900$ salary for attending university) and free healthcare for all. Taxes are of cause high but all the rich pay without making trouble. Our elected are not insider trading millionaires who cares only about campaign contribution corporations (max contribution allowed here is very low (like 2.000$ I believe)).
Yes odd how middleclass people vote for millionaires, how white youths (with a scooter) here listen to black rap music (from a guy with a golden rimmed mustang) or how most people in the world believe in a god they have never seen. I think people sometimes uses idols/ideals instead of being realistic. I do that too. Old people probably vote for the one with the nicest tie (if they are really really old). A lot of young people voted for a communism-like party here (which is backing Our government).

You've hit the nail on the head Frek... People have only a few options. It's like choosing between buying a car without an engine or an engine without a car - in the end both are useless. When faced with this dilemma people just throw the dice on whatever "feels" good - for some it might be a candidate with a nice tie.

This is about one quarter of an inch from the Soviet Union's practice of putting political opponents and protesters into psychiatric "hospitals". Do you really want the government deciding if you're mentally competent to vote, drive, eat carcinogenic barbeque, etc?

We could use more parties, that is true, but we really need to get the money and the lobbying out of politics.

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